Time to Review the Middle East Situation

  • 6 June 2010

Notwithstanding the tragic nature of Monday’s Israeli assault on Freedom flotilla the turn of events should be seen as an opportunity to review the situation in the Middle East. The clash was a testimony to the fact that unless peace is reached between Arabs and Israelis and as long as the Palestinian cause remains without a just solution, the region will continue to remain unstable and prone to such flare-ups all the time. It is hence imperative for all international stakeholders to push the peace process forward and help the region emerge from this endless cycle of conflict. US President Barack Obama hinted in an interview to CNN recently that the incident represents a chance that all the parties in the region must use to push the peace process forward and settle the issue on a two-state solution basis. Even though Israel has obstructed this process in the past and continues to do so through its obstinate positions, the time has come to force it to change as the Middle East is paying a heavy price for this ongoing conflict. A specific time-frame must also be put in place to restart negotiations so that Tel Aviv does not use delaying tactic and continue and not implement fait accompli in the occupied territories.

The Freedom flotilla clash has proved that the siege of Gaza has turned into a dangerous humanitarian, political and security crisis that can no longer be ignored. This has complex regional and international dimensions as it represents mass punishment of around one and a half million people who are being punished for no fault of theirs. It is hence time to end the siege because as long as the siege continues, the attempts to break it and challenge it would continue and the possibilities of a clash would remain. Perhaps a positive signal in this regard came from the White House when its spokesperson indicated that Washington sees Israel’s siege of Gaza as something that cannot be tolerated. Arab foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Cairo to break the siege of Gaza and request a United Nations Security Council meeting to pressurize Israel into lifting the siege.

The Freedom flotilla incident is also a chance for the Palestinian factions, especially Fatah and Hamas, to review their relationship so that the issues facing them are resolved in a spirit of national reconciliation following years of conflict. The world has expressed its solidarity with the victims of the Freedom flotilla, on both the popular and official levels, and has demanded the lifting of the siege on Gaza. For Palestinians to turn this anti-Israeli international sentiment into something substantial, they must unite and agree on a single national agenda. Israel, on the other hand, has rejected calls for an international investigation into the incident as called for by the Security Council and insists on an internal investigation. This raises an important question for the entire international community: When will Israel’s defiance of UN resolutions and the will of the international community end?